The lion is one of the majestic beast in the wilderness of Africa and the most honoured of the Big Five of Kenya, which includes the elephant, rhino, leopard, buffalo and of course, the maned-fellow I just mentioned. Over a few decades a go the lion was found in Asia, Europe and Africa, but today the largest population, even though deteriorating, is only found in Africa and the last remaining Asiatic lions are found in Sasan-Gir National Park in India.
Unlike any other cat species, the lion is one of the laziest cat as far as I can tell, they would spend at least sixteen to twenty hours sleeping or resting and only become active because they need food to survive and to, you know, at least fulfil their horny nature and procreate.
Today when you visit a place like Tsavo or Maasai Mara and you happen to come into contact with these beasts, you will know the reason why they are called “Kings”, that breathtaking feeling you get and the goosebumps, especially when they roar. So today I present to you a few amazing facts about “Simba” – that’s Swahili word for lion, you might have heard it in Lion King.
Scientific name: Panthera leo
Lifespan: 10 to 14 years in the wild
Diet: Carnivorous (mainly large-sized ungulates; buffaloes, zebras)
Speed: 80 km/h
Habitat: grasslands, savannas
Nativity: Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Ethiopia
Conservation Status: Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List
Threats: Habitat loss, conflict with humans, poaching, diseases (Canine Distemper Virus)
Hybrids: Liger, Tigon, Leopon
Here are the 23 amazing facts about lions to explore:
- Lions are the most social amongst all the big cats, they live in groups called prides, consisting of few males and related females with their offspring.
- The lion is the second largest cat after the tiger, and the largest cat in Africa, with males reaching a height of 1.2 metres and the female reaching a height of around 1 metre.
- The lion is considered both an apex and keystone predator in the wild, since it has no other predator except for humans.
- Lions are the laziest amongst the big cat family, they spend up to 20 hours a day sleeping or resting.
- Lion’s mane starts to grow when it’s about a year old.
- Lions’ mane varies and darkens with age.
- Mane colour and size are also influenced by environmental factors such as average ambient temperature.
- Mane length signals fighting success in male to male relationships.
- Darker-maned individuals may have longer reproductive lives and higher offspring survival.
- Almost all male West African lions in Pendjari National Park are either maneless or have very short manes.
- A lion can run for short distances at 80 km/h and leap as far as 36 feet.
- Lionesses give birth to 2 to 3 cubs at a time. When a couple of lionesses give birth at the same time, they would raise and nurse the cubs communally.
- Lion cubs are usually born with blue eyes that later change to amber or brown when they are around 2 to 3 months old.
- Male cubs are excluded from their maternal prides when they reach maturity at around 2 to 3 years old. The male cubs later form a bachelor group and venture to take over another established pride.
- They are the loudest of the big cats and their roar can be heard up to 8 km (5 miles) away. They may roar mightily to show off their territorial ownership and intimidating rivals or to locate other members of the pride.
- Lions are very responsible cats, males spend their time guarding their territory and their cubs while the females go hunting.
- Lions hunt a large variety of game, they would mostly target large-sized ungulates which include buffaloes, zebras and wildebeests. In some other occasions they would hunt larger mammals like young elephants and hippos.
- While hunting, the lionesses usually form a semicircle, and the smaller or weaker lioness herds the prey towards the centre and then the stronger lionesses make an attack towards the prey.
- After a successful hunt, all the lions share the hunt in a hierarchical order, beginning with the adult males, followed by females and finally the cubs.
- When another group of male lions takes over the pride, they kill all the cubs so they can sire their own with the lionesses.
- Lions have four claws on their hind legs and five on their fore legs where the dew is found, however, the dew claw does not show in their spoor (foot print), and it acts like a thumb to hold down prey.
- Lions have round pupils instead of vertical slits that are found in domestic cats, this allows them to allow more light to filter into their eyes at night, giving them a better night vision.
- It is the second fastest cat in the wild, averaging a speed of 80 km/h, though it last for only short bursts and can be highly exhausted, hence they have to be very close to their prey before starting an attack.
Here Is a Takeaway
Even though the lion is often referred to as the “King of the jungle,” it actually only lives in grasslands and plains. I was informed that the expression may have come from an incorrect association between Africa and jungles or may refer to a less literal meaning of the word jungle.
Which one of these 23 facts was your favourite? Let us know in the comment box.